Dodger Stadium has nothing on Pershing Park when it comes to scenic backdrops. Instead of the distant San Gabriel Mountains, spectators at the ballpark near the Santa Barbara waterfront enjoy a high-definition view of the Santa Ynez range looming over the Riviera. There are palm trees, of course, but L.A. has nothing like the Moreton Bay fig tree that stands majestically behind first base; it is a sibling of the giant tree near the train station.
The inauguration of Pershing Park as the home field of the Santa Barbara Foresters occurred last Friday evening. The festivities began with the parading of six National Baseball Congress World Series trophies to home plate. Among the escorts were Dylan Axelrod, a pitcher on the first Santa Barbara team to win the national championship in 2006; Vaughn Wipf and Bill Oakley, players on the original Foresters teams of the 1950s; and Bob Abramson, a loyal fan known as the “Rip-It Dude” for his exhortations from the stands.
Kailey Wipf, 14-year-old granddaughter of Vaughn, sang the national anthem; Mayor Helene Schneider tossed the ceremonial first pitch (in bowling, it would have been a strike); and at 6 p.m., it was time to play ball.
It was a successful evening for the Foresters both on and off the field. They outscored the visiting Orange County Riptide, 7-4, with a display of timely hitting, clutch pitching, and error-free defense. The bleachers were filled by some 300 fans. They were bathed in sunshine for almost two hours, and then the lights kicked in — a feature lacking at UCSB’s diamond, the Foresters’ home for 26 previous years.
Sales were brisk at the concession stands. Craft beer was dispensed at $5 a cup, and by the fifth inning, the keg was drained.
Homegrown player John Jensen drove a long single into right center for the Foresters’ first hit. Jensen later finished off a triple in the fifth inning with a headfirst dive. “The dirt’s nice and soft,” Jensen said. Already, the club’s investment in improving the field — replacing the grass baselines with tons of new dirt — had paid off.
The Foresters won again Saturday, shutting out the Long Beach Legends, 7-0, with six dominant innings from starting pitcher Daniel Vasquez of Tennessee. But their staff is not at full strength, and on Sunday afternoon they went down to a 7-1 defeat at the hands of the Ventura Pirates.
“The cavalry is riding in soon,” said Bill Pintard, the Foresters’ manager who capitalizes on Santa Barbara’s alluring climate to assemble one of the nation’s strongest collegiate wooden-bat ball clubs every summer.
Players from Texas and Texas Tech are on their way. But the Foresters will have to wait for five prospects from TCU and Cal State Fullerton who are playing in the College World Series.
With 23 more home games on the Foresters’ home schedule, Pershing Park will be alive with the sound of baseball every weekend through July 20-23.
The girls of San Marcos High earned some curtain calls at the end of the scholastic sports year. Hailee Rios and the Royals softball team made it all the way to the CIF Division 4 championship game, where an undefeated Buena squad proved to be too much. The Royals had two finalists in the CIF State Track and Field Championships: senior Erica Schroeder, making her third appearance in the 800-meter run — which she won as a sophomore — finishing sixth in a season’s best time of 2:09.53; and junior Allie Jones, seventh in the 100 hurdles.
Down to the Wire
Three runners battled it out in the final block of the women’s elite race during the 18th annual State Street Mile on June 4. A late surge by UCSB grad Tori Tsolis carried her to a new record of 4:22, rewarding her with a $1,000 bonus. The men’s elite race was won by Darius Terry, a UCSB assistant coach, in 3:54, as eight runners broke four minutes.
San Marcos senior Kento Perera concluded his prep tennis career by advancing to the CIF individual quarterfinals. Vanderbilt recruit Adam Sraberg of Harvard-Westlake defeated the four-time Channel League champion, 6-3, 7-5. Perera will continue his education at Stanford.
As a UCSB basketball player, Gene Snyder scored the Gauchos’ first basket of the 1948-49 season against UCLA, in the Westwood debut of John Wooden as coach of the Bruins. Snyder, a true gentleman himself, went on to become a winning coach at Santa Barbara High and retired as the school’s principal. He died at 90 on May 26, and there will be a celebration of his life on August 27 at the Carriage Museum. … Bishop Diego High held a memorial last Sunday for Norris Fletcher, a coach who turned around the fortunes of the Cardinals football team in the 1990s. A fiery speech by Fletcher could make the most laid-back kid want to go out and tackle somebody. He died at 84 in Alba, Texas.
Foresters Player of the Week
The outfielder had seven runs-batted-in in his first five games, including three RBIs and three hits in Santa Barbara’s home opener. Jensen was an all-league third baseman at Santa Barbara High, and he finished his freshman year at SBCC as the Western State Conference North Player of the Year, hitting for a .380 average in conference games.